Not so long ago I was in the Chief Executive's office near the top of the Civic Centre. Jim Hehir wasn't there. He had been replaced by a remote controlled mini-digger. Civic Centre is being demolished to make way for the Westgate Centre. Jim, I'm sure, was busy with the issues of the day in Grafton House.
Demolition contractor CDC of Waldringfield is half way through a difficult contract reducing the tower block to crushed concrete rubble. It struck me as I was escorted around what had become the top (open to the sky) floor that it is a bit like sawing through the branch you're sitting on. When I was there, on what the contractor regarded as a reasonably safe day, the two mini-diggers were demolishing the walls, pulling them in on to tyres to reduce the impact on the floor we were all standing on. Later in the week the diggers set about hammering their way through the floor, working backwards away from the hole they're creating until only a small (but vital) area of floor remains. Out come the ramps and the diggers carefully descend to remove the last bit of the floor above from underneath. And this is where the remote control facility comes into its own; the operator is nowhere near the falling concrete.
All of the broken concrete is pushed down the lift shaft and dragged out at the bottom by a much bigger heavier machine, loaded into lorries and taken away for crushing (recycled concrete is a valuable hardcore for the construction industry). I was surprised by the relative quietness of the operation, and CDC were trying to contain and suppress the dust, particularly as the concrete fell down the lift shaft. A couple of misting machines were adding fine particles of water to the air, wetting the dust and causing it to fall to the ground.
The planning application for the Westgate Centre has been submitted and it looks promising. There has been much speculation as to who will take the anchor store but I understand nothing has been signed and if this is the case building work is unlikely to start yet.